Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Rio de Janeiro this past Saturday night (March 21, 2015) for the exciting UFC Fight Night 62: "Maia vs LaFlare" event, which took place live on FOX Sports 1 inside the Ginasio do Maracanazinho.
The main event was likely the worst contest of the evening, as Demian Maia easily out-grappled formerly undefeated Ryan LaFlare en route to a 25-minute unanimous decision victory (highlights here). Even with the impressive victory, Maia's antics in the fifth that saw him get docked a point for butt-scooting sure won't help his cause in garnering more fans.
The co-main event was a much more enthralling fixture, pitting first-round dynamo Erick Silva against the original UFC heel in Josh Koscheck. Many counted "Kos" out in this short-notice bout, and while their predictions ultimately did come to fruition, the former No. 1 welterweight contender looked pretty good early on in the first round before submitting to a guillotine choke.
With that quick recap of last night's marquee bouts, it's now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Godofredo Pepey
Who Should He Fight Next: Jeremy Stephens
After starting off his UFC career 1-3 and on the verge of being cut, Godofredo Pepey has rebounded exceptionally well, capping off a three-fight finish winning streak by submitting Andre Fili with what was essentially a flying triangle at UFC Fight Night 62.
Most expected the Team Alpha Male prospect to run through the Brazilian in his home country, but Pepey proved to be a lot more dangerous than many initially believed.
While I doubt Pepey would fare well against a ranked opponent, I certainly believe his three straight finishes earned him a shot at proving everyone wrong once again.
If that is the case, why not match up the exciting finisher with the heavy-handed Jeremy Stephens?
Winner: Gilbert Burns
Who Should He Fight Next: Winner of Paul Felder vs Jim Miller at UFC on FOX 15
It is quite difficult to predict a fight in the UFC's lightweight division, considering how many quality fighters there are beyond the top-15 rankings.
With that being said, I highly doubt UFC matchmakers opt to reschedule the initially planned scrap between Gilbert Burns and No. 9 ranked Josh Thomson after "Durinho" struggled mightily against short-notice replacement Alex Oliveira in Rio.
Regardless, the Blackzilian prospect dug deep and pulled off a miraculous armbar late in the fight to continue his impressive streak inside the Octagon.
For his next fight, I'd love to see the jiu-jitsu champ face off against another elite level black belt in Jim Miller, or take on a savvy striker in Paul Felder. With those two men facing off next month at UFC on FOX 15, the timeline is right for Burns to fight the winner.
Winner: Amanda Nunes
Who Should She Fight Next: Holly Holm
Oh the violence that would be a Holly Holm vs. Amanda Nunes fight!
Of all the fights on this list, I truly hope this is the one Joe Silva and I agree upon.
After Nunes' savage beatdown over Shayna Baszler at UFC Fight Night 62, "The Lioness" once again cemented herself as a top contender in the 135-pound weight class. With Miesha Tate, Jessica Eye, and Bethe Correia all locked up for their next fights, the only contenders left are Holm and Nunes.
With Holm picking up a solid win over Raquel Pennington at UFC 184, the timing works well for this women's bantamweight collision to come to fruition.
Winner: Leonardo Santos
Who Should He Fight Next: Johnny Case
Leonardo Santos is getting into his groove inside the Octagon with two straight victories. Earning his second submission victory at UFC Fight Night 62, Santos made a statement to the 155-pound weight class that he is a force to be reckoned with on the mat.
With so many prospects coming up the ranks in the lightweight division, it makes sense to pit the up-and-comers against each other to weed out the weaker competition.
In my opinion, the most exciting fight we could see Santos in next would be against Johnny Case.
Winner: Erick Silva
Who Should He Fight Next: Jake Ellenberger
Erick Silva may truly be one of the most dangerous first-round fighters in all of MMA.
In his six Octagon victories, Silva has finished each and every opponent in the first round, fighting a combined 12:52 in those fights. At UFC Fight Night 62, Silva choked out Josh Koscheck at 4:21 in the first round.
Silva's victory over Koscheck earned him his long-awaited first UFC win streak, and I expect the Brazilian berserker to get another crack at a top 15 opponent his next time out.
Why not take on the man that just submitted Koscheck only three weeks ago? Jake Ellenberger.
Winner: Demian Maia
Who Should He Fight Next: Tarec Saffiedine
Do I actually want to watch Demian Maia fight Tarec Saffiedine? Absolutely not, but it is basically the only choice UFC matchmakers have in the welterweight landscape.
Maia has rebounded from back-to-back losses with a two-fight winning streak, but his finishing ability is definitely waning as he grows older. While the jiu-jitsu ace did look to finish LaFlare multiple times over the first four rounds, Maia simply could not get the job done.
With not much room to move forward, I expect Maia to take on the former Strikeforce champ next. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into a snoozefest like Maia's fight with LaFlare.
That's a wrap.
For complete UFC Fight Night 62 results and coverage of all the night's action click here.